Bills to Legalize Alabama Sports Betting May Be on Pause Until 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 19, 2023 07:00 PM
Bills to Legalize Alabama Sports Betting May Be on Pause Until 2024

Are you among those waiting to see legal sports betting in Alabama? Well, get keep waiting. Bills currently on the legislative docket that would lead to a legal Alabama sports betting vote during the next major election look like they'll be put on hold until 2024.

Assuming this is the case, it would be years before we see Alabama join the legal sports betting ranks. And knowing how much annual tax revenue is potentially at stake, we can't help but ask: Why?

More than half of the United States has legalized some form of sports betting since 2018. Why is Alabama continuing to hold out? Especially when it's clearly remained a topic of discussion among lawmakers?

The latest reports shed a light on what has been a very long and slow battle over the future of sports betting throughout Alabama?

Sports Betting is Harder to Legalize in Alabama Than Many Other States

Part of the problem facing Alabama is the absence of a state lottery and casino infrastructure. They are among the few places in the USA without a state lottery or a foothold in the commercial casino industry. That makes it harder to set up Alabama sports betting because most states facilitate the rollout of legal gambling through one or both. 

Without a state lottery, for instance, Alabama doesn't have an office through which to facilitate their monitoring and enforcement of sports betting policies. They would need to create one entirely from scratch. That takes time and resources, and the state has so far deferred to other priorities. The number of ultra conservative-leaning members in the House of Represents only exacerbates the issue. So many of Alabama's lawmakers believe gambling is inherently immoral. 

This essentially leaves the state fighting the battle on two fronts. They must first drum up enough interest to legalize sports betting throughout Alabama. Then, after that, they must be prepared to also tinker with their lottery and casino laws and build a state gaming commission to piece it all together.

Still, despite the roadblocks, the state did show more interest than ever in a gambling bill just a couple of years ago, in 2021. That is the closest Alabama came to pushing a sports betting proposal through the House and Senate and onto a voter ballot. The momentum ultimately fizzled without much ado, but it was seen as a sign of progress. Many, in fact, had hoped Senator Greg Albritton laid a legal sports betting blueprint the state would pick up on and follow during 2023 legislative meetings.

As it turns out, however, this isn't exactly happening.

Alabama Sports Betting Talks Are Already Winding Down...If They're Even Happening at All

With the 2023 Alabama legislative sessions scheduled to begin on March 7, we would have usually heard about the introduction of a new sports betting bill. Alas, there are only crickets. And Representative Chris Blackshear, who sponsored the House's sports betting proposal that almost passed through in 2021, doesn't sound like someone who expects that change.

From a recent article on authored by Mike Cason:

"Rep. Chris Blackshear said he is not working on a bill for the 2023 legislative session, which starts March 7. Blackshear did not rule out a proposal but said the large freshman class—31 of 105 House members are new—makes it harder to gauge support. Gambling bills require a three-fifths vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters. 'The first thing I feel like we need to do is really take some time and educate the new members of the body,' Blackshear said. 'Starting at ground zero, what exists [in gambling in Alabama] today, kind of the lay of the land today.”

Let's be honest: This sounds like a whole lot of nothing. As far as we can tell, the House is worried about re-acclimating after the nearly 30 percent turnover they encountered during the 2022 elections and doesn't view legal sports betting as a priority. That's not particularly surprising. Back in 2021, it was the Senate rather than the House of Representatives that pushed for a legal Alabama sports betting bill. Led by Senator Albritton, the Senate widely approved of the one cobbled together, but the initiative ended up dying on the House floor when it failed to receive anywhere close to the three-fifths approval it needed.

Those same dynamics appear to be at play yet again. This time around, though, the Senate won't be driving the Alabama sports betting debate. Senator Albritton has already said the House must take charge on the next piece of sports betting legislation. The Senate, presumably, doesn't want to waste time on yet another bill that has little chance of passing through.

When will Alabama Sports Betting be Legalized

On the bright side, it is seen as only a matter of time before legal sports betting comes to Alabama. On the not-so-bright side, this "matter of time" may span years—at least three more, to be exact.

If and when an Alabama sports betting bill makes it through the House and Senate, it must then be put on a major election ballot for state residents to vote. The next major election is in November 2024, which means a proposal would need to be passed during this next round of legislative meetings. And since that doesn't sound like that'll happen, the earliest Alabama can get a sports betting bill on a major election ballot is in 2026. From there, that proposal not only needs voter approval, but the state must also set up their casino, state lottery and sports betting infrastructure all at once.

Realistically speaking, if we had to ballpark it, Alabama sports betting probably won't go live before 2027 or the absolute earliest. 

This will come as a bummer to sports diehards. We wish there was better news to report. In the meantime, Alabamans are not without alternatives. Many of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow anyone from the United States to get up and service an account. Failing that, Alabamans can travel to one of the surrounding states that has already legalized sports betting.

The moral of this story, though, doubles as a hard truth: Unless something drastically changes over the next couple of months in 2023, Alabama sports betting doesn't seem like it's anywhere close to legalization.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs: 

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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